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Longtime state Rep. Joel Kretz won’t defend House seat

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(The Center Square) – Veteran state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, told House colleagues Friday that he will not seek re-election later this year.

Kretz, 67, was initially elected in 2005 and is completing his ninth two-year term in office representing the 7th Legislative District. He did not issue a formal statement regarding his decision not to run again, but it was confirmed Monday by John Handy, communications director for the Washington House Republicans.

Kretz is a lifelong Washingtonian who grew up on Mercer Island and attended Green River and Olympic colleges before making his home in Okanogan County where he raises cattle and horses. The sprawling 7th Legislative District in northeastern Washington includes all of Ferry, Okanogan, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties and parts of Douglas, Grant, and Spokane counties.

He currently serves on the House Capital Budget and Agriculture and Natural Resources committees, and has served as Deputy Minority Leader for Republican lawmakers.

On his website, Kretz said his legislative priorities have been private-sector job creation and ‘responsible land management.’ His district is largely rural and conservative, with employment lagging behind other Washington counties. Kretz said he believes “the best way to get people back to work is to get government out of the way of job creators … while providing adequate resources for the core functions of government.”

In a profile article last year, Handy described Kretz – wearing a black cowboy, cowboy boots, and bolo tie in the marbled halls of Olympia – as “looking more like a character from the hit TV series ‘Yellowstone’ than a seasoned lawmaker. But don’t let looks fool you.”

Kretz is known for his “unique brand of humor, work ethic, and unrelenting political wrangling as he works on behalf of his constituents,” wrote Handy.

One of his district legislative partners, state Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said in an email to The Center Square that it has been “an incredible honor to fight and work tirelessly alongside Joel to preserve our district’s values and way of life. I will certainly miss him.”

Short said Kretz “brought common sense and a style unto his own to the legislature. He worked tirelessly to keep government out of the lives of his constituents and to fight against onerous regulations that threatened making a living from the land.”

“Joel never shied away from difficult issues: in fact, those are the ones where his effectiveness and relationships shone through. I have no doubt that he has made a difference,” she said.

The current legislative session in Olympia is scheduled to end this Thursday, March 7.

The weeklong filing period for elective public offices in Washington is slated May 6-10.

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